Posts Tagged ‘Upset The Rhythm’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Rattle

Nottingham duo Rattle throw out the pop formulas in favor of a percussive ping pong between members. The pair, Katharine Brown and Theresa Wrigley, weave a tapestry of hypnotic dance and percussive patter, both picking up the sticks to spar rhythmically with each other with only occasional forays into vocal volley. Sequence drops the listener into a trance, playing off of subtle shifts in ever evolving patterns, with each of the four songs on the record stretching towards the ten-minute mark. The songs have the effect of stripping away the surroundings of the listener, like a sonic suspension in sensory isolation, or in this case suspension in the rarefied air of rhythmic thrum. The record is best listened to in dim surroundings or with eyes closed altogether. Let the rhythms play over the mind, pushing accompanying brainwave patterns to the beat that the two women pluck out of thin air. In that environment Sequence begins to toggle the tumblers of the mind into new positions.

When vocals do arise in the mix, they’re often wordless – cooing, humming and moaning entwined with the insistent, ecstatic beats. They finally break into discernible phrasing on “Signal” but even then, the pair are all about repetition, turning their words into mantras that eventually push meanings to the background in favor higher states of consciousness. While the record is propulsive and even at times frantic, the overall effect is absolutely soothing. There’s a sense of natural evolution to each song, each player anticipating the other completely, and that ingrained trust is passed through the speakers to the listener. Brown and Wrigley are spirit guides, sonic Sherpas, clatter-packed chiropractors come to align your vibrations to their natural thump.

It’s a shift from the usual dose of post-punk and that drops from the bucket at Upset The Rhythm, but the DIY spirit is just as punk as anything else on the roster. Brown and Wrigley are working the crease between jazz, post-punk and drone and it works as a feast for the ears. Highly recommended as a background beat to get your own weird Birdman-esque mania working for you, or just to drop out in the negative zone for forty-odd minutes of float. Either way Sequence is a damn delight.


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Sauna Youth – “No Personal Space”

The recent album from Sauna Youth is a welcomed blast of bracing bile that chewed up wage gaps, gig economies, personal space issues and cultural collapse through constant distraction. The band’s ode to a bubble one’s own to have and to hold, “No Personal Space,” is a match-lit highlight of the album and thy give the track a DIY video treatment through lo-budget means, even leaving in the technical difficulties that arose.

The band notes that, “This was filmed in 5 minutes in the Peckham Arch practice space that we wrote the album in and whose electrical interference from the train tracks above features throughout this song. We used an iPhone 5, two iPhone 6s’ and an iPhone 7 using their inferior front cameras and it was edited in the free software Hitfilm Express in a couple of hours. It’s about constriction and liberation and having no personal space.” If you haven’t picked up the LP from Upset The Rhythm, now might be a good time!

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Sauna Youth

Sauna Youth have a handle on the brittle bite of punk that’s long served their country’s history. Their previous LP balanced a crucial clutch of frantic, diesel-paced guitar explosions with caustic hooks. There’s also a thread of art punk that often finds spoken word elements propping up in their work, pushing them out of the standard DIY tenure track. On their third LP they maintain their trajectory, melting away some of the hooks through sheer velocity, but never once letting up on their dedication to the raised hackle wild swing of punk’s fiercest proponents. While there’s not a single as potent as “Transistors” here, the whole package rubs the soul just as raw as anything they’ve brought forth in their catalog.

The album opens with the sucker-punch pounce of “Percentages” and it’s a good indication of the kind of bile and bent aluminum aesthetics the band is pushing to the front on Deaths. The bile in question finds them venting frustration out of multiple channels – the economic impact of sustainable arts and gig economies, political realities that outlive our dumbest estimation, and the daily distractions that threaten to kill our creative core. While the band channels all this into an intense half hour of cranium crunch, the venting of frustrations comes off cathartic more than angry. It’s destructive in the way demolition should be, but they’re smiling while they swing the hammer.

The band still leaves room for a spoken word piece here, which I appreciate, though it does derail the momentum of the album. The choice to forgo streamlined listening for their own indulgences and strange sources of joy seems to be the core of what makes Sauna Youth click. Like a pill that gets stuck in the throat, they’re still hitting the body to full effect, even if the ride’s sometimes uncomfortable. Deaths slots in nicely alongside the rest of this year’s stellar Upset The Rhythm roster, another disjointed slap to the face that’s sorely needed.



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Terry

Third time ‘round the track and Terry show no signs of flagging their penchant for bending twang rifled post-punk into an album of essentials. Fulla strums, that don’t blow too breezy and guitar tones that squeeze uneasy, the band pairs their whip-smart pop with a bleak wink at Aussie life and the drudgery that’s unavoidable. Like many these days they’ve got the income gap and the party politic in mind and its not looking good for any of us. Terry at least know that a stomach sick riff and some creeping ambiance can distract from the anemic self-worth of the powers that be.

With each new album, the band seems to dig further into their own warped groove. Al Montfort and Amy Hill have a drinker’s rapport and their vocal swaps and lyrical gang-ups give the record the same loose-knit feel that have long endeared Terry to listeners. That open accessibility pairs well with their brand of itchy hooks, and its not long before the band gets under your skin in the best of ways. They offset their charms with lyrical bites, and half-hug invitations are met with caustic jabs at this mess we’ve collectively found ourselves in. While Terry might not have the answers, they’re down to commiserate and “roast the rich.”

As with quite a few other of their countrymen, Terry’s play on post-punk’ isn’t overstuffed. The band’s economical use of space makes every nuance count. When they deploy the saw of violin or the gentle jingle of bells, its damn well with purpose. In turn, when they flip the pace from laconic to frazzled, every inch of fuzz rattles the listeners down to the ribosomes. I’m Terry is short, but packs a punch and three for three, I’d wager there’s not a Terry release you should do without.




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Terry – “Bureau”

Have I been able to contain my excitement over the new Terry LP? Not quite. The band’s on a streak, with two great LPs under their belts already. The third LP shows no signs of flagging as they continue to mine a strain of post-punk peppered with twang and salt n’ honey harmonies that are soothing yet unpolished. The band let loose one of the album’s most ecstatic singles, “The Whip,” a few weeks back and now they follow it up with the cooler-headed “Bureau,” a stunner in its own right. Terry’s strength lies in an ability to push past any of the well-worn ruts of post-punk. They’re embracing the ethos of bands who were set free to run dub and punk and pop together into a caustic clash, but they’re not tied down to the set of stencils that so many modern makers seem to use.

They pair the new song with a grit n’ glare video that’s transportation heavy – grabbing the ‘70s aesthetics and pushing them through a DIY filter. Its all good fun and serves to further the excitement for the Upset The Rhythm release of I’m Terry at the end of the month. If you’re in the UK, they’re even trotting the show out live (lucky bastards) so hit that up to see how these songs shake out in the room.



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Sauna Youth – “Percentages”

UK DIY outfit Sauna Youth are headed back to record store shelves this fall with their latest LP Deaths. The first cut finds the band in bracing, raised hackles punk position – blaring air raid siren riffs undercut with breathless rhythm work. The track feels as if it might burst into flame at any moment. In under a minute twenty-five the band boils the blood and gets listener’s ready to careen into just about anything in their paths. Their last LP, 2015’s Distractions was sorely (almost criminally) overlooked on this side of the Atlantic, so let’s try not to make the same mistake this time around. The record lands on September 7th.



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Primo!

Never a dull moment rolling out of the Australian scene these days and Primo are testament to that. The trio (recently expanded to a quartet with Amy Hill of Dick Diver) pins down a portion of post-punk that relies on sparse aesthetics, driving bass lines and a dash or two of jangle to get their message through. Their debut, Amici, focuses on rat race drudgery, as referenced cheekily in the band’s business attire on the cover. They posit another world for themselves where accounts receivable is the only option and office blocks spring up like prison walls. But the group knows that every suburb’s got an underground leaning back against that dreaded slide into routine. They churn their unrest into knuckle-cracking percussive snaps, guitar lines itchy as wool on a summer’s day and harmonies that band them together against the ebbing edge of boredom and rote living.

Even with its lyrical lashing of the system and perpetual pining for a life less taupe, the album comes off with a softer impact than many of their post-punk peers. They’re pushing back against the ballast of suburban expectations but the album lands with a collective sigh rather than a defiant scream. Where others are reaching for the acerbic trappings of Young Marble Giants, Bush Tetras or The Slits, Primo take a page out of twee and affix pillowy three-part harmonies to their twitching instrumentals. The approach lures listeners in before setting things straight with their screeds on societal weight.

At a scant twenty-two minutes the record is just a shot over EP territory, but the band makes good time out of their brief spin around the table. They aren’t tearing the system down outright, but they’re here for the rest of us work-a-day nobodies looking to break out of data entry and see who’s coming with us. In a year that’s been pock-marked by post-punk it’s a nice take on the genre that’s helped in no small turn by some excellent hooks and a good dollop of cheeky charm.



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Terry – “The Whip”

Not much better news on a Wednesday morning than a new Terry album on the way. Three albums in three years, I’d say the Melbourne band is beginning to make a habit out of it and with their brand of post-punk plonk mining the years when the punks spread their wings through weirder sounds, it’s always interesting to see what the band’s been digging up. “The Whip” kicks the jangles aside, clips a driving punk guitar line to a curdled coif of organ squeal and gives this track an off the rails quality that’s biting harder than usual for the laid-back bunch. While I love the band’s cowpunk preening and clang-hearted dirges its good to see them go for the pop pounce – albeit with enough squirm to make it pure Terry. Its an art-punker kicking the New Wave kids down the stairs for coming on too soft and too slow. If this track doesn’t get you sweaty for a new Terry long player then I can’t fathom what’s eating you.

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Vital Idles

Glasgow’s Vital Idles sketch out the bare bones of post-punk on their debut for Upset The Rhythm, but even without a hefty whallop in their collective pockets, the band remains utterly captivating. In the grand tradition of Young Marble Giants or Tallulah Gosh the group makes the most of the basics, imbuing their songs with a driving heart that chews on jangles until they fray like unkempt guitar strings. True purveyors of the aesthetics over expertise approach, Vital Idles have bundled their urgency and wiry worry into an art school folio that pulls straight from the last waves of cool fleeing the class of ’79. It’s a package that’s built to crash but holding tight. That fragile edge gives the band, for lack of a better term, a vitality and its absolutely infectious.

Eschewing many of their modern contemporaries’ reliance on rhythm as the driving force behind post-punk preferences, the Idles pin their charms on the junk shop shapes of their jangles and the asymmetrical bite of Jessica Higgins’ vocals. While there are some fine hooks holed up on the album, its Higgins that elevates Left Hand from practice space sketches to something with a whole lot more mettle. The recordings crackle life. The songs never feel worked over – practiced, sure, but almost certainly fresh in the band’s repertoire when they hit the tape. In the end, that’s the best quality of post-punk. Rubber legged bass is fun but exhausting in quantity, hangovers of dub tend to dissipate, but the hook that snags the hardest is that feeling that it could all fall apart at any moment. Vital Idles embody that fragility, bearing the scars of past scrapes on their knees like badges, signaling all the likeminded souls that they’re versed and ready for another go.

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